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EXCLUSIVE: Vladimir Putin’s FULL interview in English with France’s Le Figaro (VIDEO)

RussiaFeed has exclusively translated into English Vladimir Putin’s interview, which was obtained directly from the Kremlin’s official website.

Vladimir Rodzianko

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From RussiaFeed

The Duran’s Adam Garrie analyzed how Vladimir Putin criticized US domestic politics in a recent interview with France’s Le Figaro. Putin blasted what so many have been referring to as ‘the deep state’ for interfering in how not only how Donald Trump has conducted his business, but also how much control ‘they’ had over Barack Obama.

Putin spoke about Ukraine and touched on Syria – reaffirming Assad was not responsible for any chemical attacks, and that it was a pretext for military escalation in Syria in order to overthrow him.

Below is the full transcript translated into English from Putin’s interview by RussiaFeed. Read for yourselves – do you agree with the Russian President?

Question: Good afternoon! Thank you very much for agreeing to answer our questions for Le Figaro. I also thank you for accepting us here at the Cultural Center of Russia here in Paris. Once again, many thanks for agreeing to give us this interview.

You came here to open an exhibition that is devoted to the 300th year anniversary since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and France. Franco-Russian relations have had ups and downs. How do you assess this relationship today?

Vladimir Putin: Indeed, President Macron invited me to participate in the opening of this exhibition. But I must say that the relations between Russia and France have been developing much longer and have much deeper roots, we have already mentioned this several times with President Macron.

In the 11th century, Anna, the youngest daughter of one of our great princes Yaroslav the Wise, came here to France, and became the wife of the French King Henry I. Her name was Anna Russkaya, the queen of France. Her son Philip I became the founder of two European dynasties: Valois and Bourbon, the latter still rule in Spain.

So, we have much deeper roots as you can see, although for the last 300 years, relations have developed more intensively, it is true. I very much hope that today’s event, the opening of the exhibition, and our talks with President Macron will help give these relations new life.

Question: Mr. President, what kind of figure is Peter the Great to you, who arrived in Versailles in 1717 to commemorate diplomatic relations?

Putin: I already spoke today to my French colleagues, our French friends – Peter I is, first and foremost, a reformer, he is the person who not only introduced the best advancements, but of course, he was a patriot of his country, he fought for Russia’s worthy place in world affairs, but mainly, he transformed his country, making it more modern, mobile, and forward thinking. He did a lot, if not to say everything.

He was engaged in science, education, culture, engaged in military affairs and state construction. He left a colossal legacy after he died, to which Russia has enjoyed practically still today. I’m not talking about the fact that he founded my hometown of St. Petersburg, which for a long time was the capital of the Russian state.

Question: You said you had a meeting with Macron already. Were there any expectations from the first meeting? You said that you need to overcome the stage of distrust. Did you manage to overcome it?

As for the main issue, the issue of sanctions, can you say that you have reached some sort of understanding?

Putin: At any kind of meeting, with any contacts, at any event of this level, especially if this is the first meeting, the first contact, there are always expectations. If these expectations are missing, then it is pointless to hold this type of meeting in the first place.

Of course, there were expectations this time. They were related to issues close to me, to learn first hand the position of the incoming President of the French Republic on key issues regarding his international agenda, and the development of bilateral relations.

Of course, the newly elected President of France, who has just taken office, has his own view on things, on bilateral relations, and on international politics.

In general, this is a very pragmatic view, as it seems to me. We have precisely the points for connecting our positions, to work jointly on key areas.

Question: The implementation of the Minsk Agreements in Ukraine, as it seems to us, is in a deadlock today. Have you managed to achieve progress with President Macron towards the resolution of this conflict?

Putin: Progress on resolving any conflicts, including the conflict in southeast Ukraine, can primarily be achieved only by the conflicting parties.

The conflict in southeast Ukraine is an internal conflict, a Ukrainian conflict first of all. It occurred after an unconstitutional, power-seizing coup in Kiev in 2014. This is the source of all the problems.

The most important thing to do is to find the strength to negotiate with all the conflicting parties, and, above all, I am convinced of this, the ball, as they say, is on the side of the Kiev authorities, they must, first and foremost, implement and fulfill these Minsk Agreements.

Question: What needs to happen in order to move towards a positive outcome? Can Russia take the initiative to finally secure a truce?

Putin: We always come up with this initiative. We believe the main thing that needs to be done is to divert the armed forces from the line of contact. This is where you need to start. Two points need to be taken, otherwise the third point will not succeed at all.

And today’s Ukrainian authorities constantly refer to the fact that the other side is shooting. But if troops and heavy equipment are not diverted, of course they will shoot. We must take away heavy equipment. This is first and foremost.

Secondly, what needs to be done in the political sphere, in the end, is the necessity to introduce the law adopted by the Ukrainian parliament on the special status of these territories [Donbass]. After all, the law was passed, but it has not yet come into effect.

The law on amnesty was adopted, but the President did not sign it. The Minsk Agreements state that it is necessary to conduct social and economic rehabilitation of these territories of these unrecognized republics. Instead of doing this, on the contrary, they introduce a blockade, that is the problem.

And they imposed a blockade on the indigenous living there, blocking the railway tracks. The President of Ukraine first said that he condemned it and that he will straighten things out, tried to do it, but he did not succeed.

Instead of continuing those efforts, he officially supported the blockade, issuing a decree on the blockade. How can we speak about positive developments for the situation in such conditions? Unfortunately, we do not see this yet.

Question: Let’s slightly forget about the Eastern Europe, to talk about the Middle East, and first of all about Syria. After your military intervention in September 2015, to date, in your opinion, what basic solutions exist for this country after so many years of war?

Putin: First of all, I would like to note the constructive approach by Turkey and Iran, which together with us [Russia] achieved a ceasefire, and, of course, along with the Syrian government. This could not be done, of course, without the so-called Syrian armed opposition. This was the first very important, serious step on the road to peace.

And the second, no less important step, is the agreement on the creation of so-called de-escalation zones. Now, we are talking about four zones. It seems to us that this extremely important for road to peace, if I may say so, because it is impossible to talk about the political process without stopping the bloodshed.

Now, in my opinion, we all have another task: technically and, if you will, even technologically, to complete the process of creating these zones of de-escalation, you need to agree on the boundaries of these zones, how the institutions of power will operate there, and how communication will be organized there. These zones of de-escalation will need to communicate with the outside world.

By the way, President Macron spoke about this part of it today, when he talked about humanitarian convoys. In general, I think the President of France is correct, and here is also one of the points of contact, here we can work together with our French colleagues.

After this takes place, the formalization of de-escalation zones, I very much hope that at least some elements of interaction between the government and those people who will control the situation in these zones of de-escalation will begin.

I really wouldn’t like – it is very important that I now say – that these zones were some kind of prototype for future territorial division of Syria. On the contrary, I count on the fact that these zones of de-escalation, if peace is established there, the people here and control the situation will be communicating with the official Syrian authorities.

And so it can happen, there should be a situation of at least some elementary interaction and cooperation. And the next step is a purely political process of political reconciliation, and if possible, to elaborate on constitutional rules, the constitution and to conduct of elections.

Question: Indeed, there are differences on the Syrian issue between Russia and other parties, especially the fate of Bashar Assad, whom Western countries have accused of using chemical weapons against their own population. Mr. President, do you see a political future for Syria without Bashar Assad?

Putin: In general, I do not consider myself entitled to determine the political future of Syria with or without Assad, this is a matter solely for the Syrian people. No one has the right to assign himself any prerogatives that belong exclusively to the people of a particular country. This is the first thing I would like to mention.

Do you have any more questions?

Question: Yes. You say that you do not make any decisions – does that mean that there is a future without him [Assad]?

Putin: I repeat, this should be determined only by the Syrian people. You have now accused the government of Assad of using chemical weapons.

After this event related to chemical weapons happened, we immediately invited our American partners and all who deemed it necessary, to inspect the airfield from which the aircraft allegedly used chemical weapons.

If the chemical weapon were used by the official military structures of President Assad, there would inevitably be traces left behind on this airfield, modern technology would prove this, it is inevitable. And there would traces left on the planes, and traces would be left at the airport. But in fact, all refused to conduct this check.

We proposed to conduct an inspection at the site where the chemical weapons were allegedly struck. But they also refused to conduct an inspection, citing the fact that it was too dangerous. How is it dangerous if the explosion was allegedly inflicted on civilians and on the armed opposition which is still healthy?

In my opinion, this was done only for one purpose: to show why it is necessary to apply additional measures on Assad, including military. That’s all.

There is no evidence of Assad’s use of chemical weapons. In our deep conviction, this is just a provocation: Assad did not use this weapon.

Question: Do you remember when President Macron spoke about the so-called red line regarding the use of chemical weapons? Do you agree with this?

Putin: I agree. Moreover, I believe that the issue should be broader, and President Macron agreed. Whoever applies chemical weapons against these individuals, against these structures, the international community must build a common policy, and the answer must be one that makes the use of such weapons impossible by anyone.

Question: After the election of Donald Trump in the US, many expressed their views on the relative new phase of Russian-American relations. These relations, it seems, did not have a new start. Now I quote: “There is a Russian threat,” it was said at the last NATO summit last week. Are you frustrated by this attitude on the part of the US?

Putin: No. We did not expect anything, nothing special in fact. The President of the United States conducts a traditional American policy. Of course, we heard during the election campaign the intentions of the already elected and incoming President of the United States, Mr. Trump, about his desire to normalize Russian-American relations. He talked about relations being worse than ever, we remember it well.

But we also understand and see that in fact, the internal political situation in the United States is such that people who lost the election do not want to put up with it and, unfortunately, use the anti-Russian map in the most active way possible, in an internal political struggle under far-fetched pretexts.

Therefore, we are in no hurry, we are ready to wait, but we very much hope that the normalization of Russian-American relations will happen someday.

Question: In an ideal world, what would you expect from the United States in order to improve relations between the US and Russia?

Putin: There is no ideal world, and the subjunctive mood also does not exist in politics.

I want to answer the second part of your question, about 2% or more increase in military spending, which, the United States, is well known for today, spend more on the military and defense than the budget of every countries combined.

Therefore, I fully understand the President of the United States when he wants to shift some of this burden to his NATO allies. This is a very pragmatic and understandable approach.

But what interested me? At the NATO summit they said that NATO wants to establish good relations with Russia. But then why increase military spending? Against whom did they come to fight?

There are some internal contradictions here, but in fact it’s not our business, let NATO understand who and what to pay for, we are not very worried. We provide our defenses – we do it reliably, with a prospect for the future, we are very sure of ourselves.

Question: But if we talk about NATO, they are also your neighbors, who in turn want to ensure their security thanks to NATO. Is this a sign of mistrust for you, something that causes a scandalous attitude?

Putin: For us, this is a sign that our partners, excuse me, in both Europe and the US are pursuing a short-sighted policy, they do not look forward – there is no such habit, this habit has already disappeared among our Western partners.

When the Soviet Union ceased to exist, Western politicians told us that it was not recorded on paper, but it was clearly said that NATO would not expand to the east.

And a few German politicians at that time offered a new security system in Europe that included the participation of the United States, and by the way, and Russia. If this were done, then we would not have the problems that we have faced in recent years, namely the expansion of NATO to the east up to our borders, advancing towards our borders of our military infrastructure.

There would have been, perhaps, the exit of the United States unilaterally from the ABM Treaty and the Treaty is the cornerstone of today’s and future security; there would have been, perhaps, the construction of missile defense elements in Europe – in Poland, Romania, which, of course, poses a threat to our strategic nuclear forces and violates the strategic balance, which in itself is extremely dangerous for international security.

Maybe it would not have been like this, but it happened, you can not turn the clock back, you can not unscrew the film of history, it’s not a feature film. We must proceed from how it is now. If we proceed from how it is, we need to think about what we want in the future. I think that we all want security, peace, prosperity and cooperation.

So, there is no need to push anything, we do not need to invent mythical Russian threats, hybrid wars and so on. They themselves came up with this, and then they frighten themselves on this basis, which also formulates their prospects for politics. No such policy has any prospects – there is only one perspective: cooperation in all areas, including security issues.

What is the main security problem today? Terrorism. In Europe, there are explosions in Paris, explosions in Russia, explosions in Belgium, there is war in the Middle East – that’s what we need to think about, and we are all discussing what kind of threats Russia is creating.

Question: On the issue of terrorism, on the issue of Islamism. You say that you can do more. What exactly needs to be done, what can Russia do? And why can’t we combine our efforts with Europe to achieve our goals?

Putin: Ask Europe – that’s what we want. I said this while speaking at the UN General Assembly’s 70 anniversary from the podium at the UN, and called then to unite the efforts of all countries in the fight against terror. But this is a very complex process.

See, after the terrorist attack in Paris, a terrible, bloody event, President Hollande came to us then, and we agreed on a few joint actions. The aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle approached the banks of Syria. Then Francois [Hollande] went to Washington, and the Charles de Gaulle turned around and left, going towards the direction of the Suez Canal. And the real cooperation between us [Russia] and France stopped, never having begun.

France is involved in operations there, but within the framework of an international coalition led by the United States. You need to understand who is senior, who is not senior, who has the word, who claims what. We are ready, we are open for cooperation.

It was very difficult to negotiate with the Americans on this matter. By the way, we recently noticed a certain shift, there are practical results.

I talked with President Trump on the phone, he generally supported the idea of ​​creating zones of de-escalation. We are now thinking about how to ensure the interests of all the countries in the region in southern Syria, bearing in mind the concern of all countries that have problems in this region, namely, Jordan, Israel and Syria itself, and, of course, we are ready to listen to the opinion of the United States and our European partners. But we need to conduct a concrete dialogue, and not talk about some mutual claims and threats, we need to practice practical work.

Question: You say that it is their decision, and their action, right?

Putin: That’s right, so it is.

Question: Talking about the US. Suspicions that Russia interfered in the election campaign in the United States caused a real political storm in Washington. In France, similar suspicions also sounded. First of all, in the light of what is happening in the United States, how do you react?

Putin: I have already spoken about this many times. Today one of your colleagues also asked a question on this topic. He did so very carefully at a press conference, saying that “they say that they are allegedly Russian hackers.” “They say” – who said, on what basis? “Allegedly Russian hackers”, and maybe not Russian at all.

Mr. Trump himself once said, and spoke perfectly, in my opinion, correctly: “And maybe they’re from another country: maybe it was someone lying on their bed.” After all, anything in this virtual world can think something up. Russia never does this, we do not need this. We do not have any sense to do this. What is the point?

I already talked with one US President, and with another, and with the third – the presidents come and go, but the politics don’t change. Do you know why? Because the power of bureaucracy is very strong. A man has been elected, he comes with some ideas, people with cases come to him, well-dressed and in dark suits, like me, but not with a red tie, but with black or with dark blue, and begin to explain how necessary it is to do this, and everything changes at once. It goes from one administration to another.

For someone to change something is quite a complicated matter, I say this without any irony. This is not because someone does not want to, but because it is difficult. Here Obama is an advanced man, a man of liberal views, a democrat, who, before his election, promised to close Guantanamo Bay. Did he? No. And why? Did he not want to? I really wanted to, I’m sure I wanted to, but it did not work. He sincerely sought this. It does not work that way, it’s not that simple.

But this is not the most important question, although it is important, it is hard to imagine: people in shackles have been walking there for decades without trial and effect. You can imagine, France would have done so or Russia. But no, only in the United States this is possible and is still continuing.

I have a certain amount of reserved optimism, it seems to me that we can and should negotiate on key issues.

Question: To date, you say that such a political storm in Washington rests on absolute fiction.

Putin: It does not rely on fiction, it relies on the desire of those who lost the election in the United States, at least somehow to improve their affairs at the expense of anti-Russian attacks, due to accusation of Russian interference.

People who lost the election do not want to admit that they really lost them, that the one who won was closer to the people, he understood better what people, simple voters want. I do not want to admit this.

I want to explain myself to others and prove to others that they have nothing to do with it, that their policy was right, they did everything well, but someone from their side deceived and burned them. But this is not so, they just lost and must admit that.

Then, when this happens, I think it will be easier for us to work together. But the fact that this is done with the help of anti-Russian tools is very bad, it brings dissonance into international affairs.

Let them argue among themselves, argue and prove who is cooler, who is better, who is smarter, who is more reliable and who formulates the policy for the country better – why should third parties be involved here? This is very distressing. But also this will pass: everything passes – and this too will pass.

Question: Mr. President, we come to the end of our interview, and first of all I would like to ask a question about 2018. This is the year of elections in Russia, presidential elections, legislative elections.

Can you tell us whether you intend to nominate your candidacy, or, perhaps, the opposition will be able to nominate your candidacy in the event of this campaign in a democratic way? How do you see the development of this situation, do you want the campaign to go unconditionally, exclusively in a democratic environment? I’m talking about 2018.

Putin: You know, all the campaigns are in strict accordance with the Russian Constitution, in strict accordance. And I will do everything to ensure that the 2018 election campaigns are held in the same way – I repeat again, in strict accordance with the law and the Constitution.

Everyone will have the right to do so, and everyone will undergo the relevant procedures prescribed by law, can and will certainly participate, if they so wish, in elections of all levels: from legislative assemblies, to parliament, and even presidential elections. As for the candidates, it’s still too early to talk about it.

Question: Many thanks. I hope we’ll see each other soon. Thank you very much for this conversation for Le Figaro.

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Whose Money Stoked Religious Strife in Ukraine – and Who Tried to Steal It?

Was $25 million in American tax dollars allocated for a payoff to stir up religious turmoil and violence in Ukraine?

Jim Jatras

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Authored by James George Jatras via Strategic Culture:


Was $25 million in American tax dollars allocated for a payoff to stir up religious turmoil and violence in Ukraine? Did Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (unsuccessfully) attempt to divert most of it into his own pocket?

Last month the worldwide Orthodox Christian communion was plunged into crisis by the decision of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in Constantinople to recognize as legitimate schismatic pseudo-bishops anathematized by the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is an autonomous part of the Russian Orthodox Church. In so doing not only has Patriarch Bartholomew besmirched the global witness of Orthodoxy’s two-millennia old Apostolic faith, he has set the stage for religious strife in Ukraine and fratricidal violence – which has already begun.

Starting in July, when few were paying attention, this analyst warned about the impending dispute and how it facilitated the anti-Christian moral agenda of certain marginal “Orthodox” voices like “Orthodoxy in Dialogue,” Fordham University’s “Orthodox Christian Studies Center,” and The Wheel. These “self-professed teachers presume to challenge the moral teachings of the faith” (in the words of Fr. John Parker) and “prowl around, wolves in sheep’s clothing, forming and shaping false ideas about the reality of our life in Christ.” Unsurprisingly such groups have embraced Constantinople’s neopapal self-aggrandizement and support for the Ukrainian schismatics.

No one – and certainly not this analyst – would accuse Patriarch Bartholomew, most Ukrainian politicians, or even the Ukrainian schismatics of sympathizing with advocacy of such anti-Orthodox values. And yet these advocates know they cannot advance their goals if the conciliar and traditional structure of Orthodoxy remains intact. Thus they welcome efforts by Constantinople to centralize power while throwing the Church into discord, especially the Russian Church, which is vilified in some Western circles precisely because it is a global beacon of traditional Christian moral witness.

This aspect points to another reason for Western governments to support Ukrainian autocephaly as a spiritual offensive against Russia and Orthodoxy. The post-Maidan leadership harp on the “European choice” the people of Ukraine supposedly made in 2014, but they soft-pedal the accompanying moral baggage the West demands, symbolized by “gay” marches organized over Christian objections in Orthodox cities like AthensBelgradeBucharestKievOdessaPodgoricaSofia, and Tbilisi. Even under the Trump administration, the US is in lockstep with our European Union friends in pressuring countries liberated from communism to adopt such nihilistic “democratic, European values.”

Perhaps even more important to its initiators, the row over Ukraine aims to break what they see as the “soft power” of the Russian Federation, of which the Orthodox Church is the spiritual heart and soul. As explained by Valeria Z. Nollan, professor emerita of Russian Studies at Rhodes College:

‘The real goal of the quest for autocephaly [i.e., complete self-governing status independent of the Moscow Patriarchate] of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is a de facto coup: a political coup already took place in 2014, poisoning the relations between western Ukraine and Russia, and thus another type of coup – a religious one – similarly seeks to undermine the canonical relationship between the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and Moscow.’

In furthering these twin objectives (morally, the degrading of Orthodox Christianity; politically, undermining the Russian state as Orthodoxy’s powerful traditional protector) it is increasingly clear that the United States government – and specifically the Department of State – has become a hands-on fomenter of conflict. After a short period of appropriately declaring that “any decision on autocephaly is an internal [Orthodox] church matter,” the Department within days reversed its position and issued a formal statement (in the name of Department spokesperson Heather Nauert, but clearly drafted by the European bureau) that skirted a direct call for autocephaly but gave the unmistakable impression of such backing. This is exactly how it was reported in the media, for example, “US backs Ukrainian Church bid for autocephaly.” Finally, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo weighed in personally with his own endorsement as did the US Reichskommissar for UkraineKurt Volker.

The Threat…

There soon became reason to believe that the State Department’s involvement was not limited to exhortations. As reported by this analyst in October, according to an unconfirmed report originating with the members of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (an autonomous New York-based jurisdiction of the Moscow Patriarchate), in July of this year State Department officials (possibly including Secretary Pompeo personally) warned the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (also based in New York but part of the Ecumenical Patriarchate) that the US government was aware of the misappropriation of a large amount of money, about $10 million, from estimated $37 million raised from believers for the construction of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine in New York. The State Department warning also reportedly noted that federal prosecutors have documentary evidence confirming the withdrawal of these funds abroad on the orders of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. It was suggested that Secretary Pompeo would “close his eyes” to this theft in exchange for movement by the Patriarchate of Constantinople in favor of Ukrainian autocephaly, which helped set Patriarch Bartholomew on his current course.

[Further details on the St. Nicholas scandal are available here, but in summary: Only one place of worship of any faith was destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attack in New York and only one building not part of the World Trade Center complex was completely destroyed. That was St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, a small urban parish church established at the end of World War I and dedicated to St. Nicholas the Wonderworker, who is very popular with Greeks as the patron of sailors. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, and following a lengthy legal battle with the Port Authority, which opposed rebuilding the church, in 2011 the Greek Archdiocese launched an extensive campaign to raise funds for a brilliant innovative design by the renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava based on traditional Byzantine forms. Wealthy donors and those of modest means alike enthusiastically contributed millions to the effort. Then – poof! In December 2017, suddenly all construction was halted for lack of funds and remains stalled to this day. Resumption would require having an estimated $2 million on hand. Despite the Archdiocese’s calling in a major accounting firm to conduct an audit, there’s been no clear answer to what happened to the money. Both the US Attorney and New York state authorities are investigating.]

This is where things get back to Ukraine. If the State Department wanted to find the right button to push to spur Patriarch Bartholomew to move on the question of autocephaly, the Greek Archdiocese in the US is it. Let’s keep in mind that in his home country, Turkey, Patriarch Bartholomew has virtually no local flock – only a few hundred mostly elderly Greeks left huddled in Istanbul’s Phanar district. (Sometimes the Patriarchate is referred to simply as “the Phanar,” much as “the Vatican” is shorthand for the Roman Catholic papacy.) Whatever funds the Patriarchate derives from other sources (the Greek government, the Roman Catholic Church, the World Council of Churches), the Phanar’s financial lifeline is the ethnic Greek community (including this analyst) in what is still quaintly called the “Diaspora” in places like America, Australia, and New Zealand. And of these, the biggest cash cow is the Greek-Americans.

That’s why, when Patriarch Bartholomew issued a call in 2016 for what was billed as an Orthodox “Eighth Ecumenical Council” (the first one since the year 787!), the funds largely came from America, to the tune of up to $8 million according to the same confidential source as will be noted below. Intended by some as a modernizing Orthodox “Vatican II,” the event was doomed to failure by a boycott organized by Moscow over what the latter saw as Patriarch Bartholomew’s adopting papal or even imperial prerogatives – now sadly coming to bear in Ukraine.

…and the Payoff

On top of the foregoing, it now appears that the State Department’s direct hand in this sordid business may not have consisted solely of wielding the “stick” of legal threat: there’s reason to believe there was a “carrot” too. It very recently came to the attention of this analyst, via an unsolicited, confidential source in the Greek Archdiocese in New York, that a payment of $25 million in US government money was made to Constantinople to encourage Patriarch Bartholomew to move forward on Ukraine.

The source for this confidential report was unaware of earlier media reports that the same figure – $25 million – was paid by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to the Phanar as an incentive for Patriarch Bartholomew to move forward on creating an independent Ukrainian church. Moreover, Poroshenko evidently tried to shortchange the payment:

‘Peter [Petro] Poroshenko — the president of Ukraine — was obligated to return $15 million US dollars to the Patriarch of Constantinople, which he had appropriated for himself.

‘As reported by Izvestia, this occurred after the story about Bartholomew’s bribe and a “vanishing” large sum designated for the creation of a Unified Local Orthodox Church in Ukraine surfaced in the mass media.

‘As reported, on the eve of Poroshenko’s visit in Istanbul, a few wealthy people of Ukraine “chipped in” in order to hasten the process of creating a Unified Local Orthodox Church. About $25 million was collected. They were supposed to go to the award ceremony for Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople for the issuing of a tomos of autocephaly. [A tomos is a small book containing a formal announcement.] However, in the words of people close to the backer, during the visit on April 9, Poroshenko handed over only $10 million.

‘As a result, having learned of the deal, Bartholomew cancelled the participation of the delegation of the Phanar – the residence of the Patriarch of Constantinople, in the celebration of the 1030th anniversary of the Baptism of Russia on July 27 in Kiev.

‘”Such a decision from Bartholomew’s side was nothing other than a strong ultimatum to Poroshenko to return the stolen money. Of course, in order to not lose his face in light of the stark revelations of the creation of the tomos of autocephaly for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Peter Alexeevich [Poroshenko] had to just return those $15 million for the needs of Constantinople,” a trusted source explained to reporters.

‘For preliminary information, only after receiving the remaining sum, did Bartholomew finally give his consent to sending a delegation of the Phanar to Kiev … ‘

Now, it’s possible that the two identical figures of $25 million refer to two different pots of money (a cool $50 million!) but that seems unlikely. It’s more probable the reports refer to the same sum as viewed from the sending side (the State Department, the Greek Archdiocese) and the delivery side (Poroshenko, Constantinople).

Lending credibility to the confidential information from New York and pointing to the probability that it refers to the same payment that Poroshenko reportedly sought to raid for himself are the following observations:

  • When Poroshenko generously offered Patriarch Bartholomew $10 million, the latter was aware that the full amount was $25 million and demanded the $15 million Poroshenko had held back. How did the Patriarch know that, unless he was informed via New York of the full sum?
  • If the earlier-reported $25 million was really collected from “a few wealthy people of Ukraine” who “chipped in,” given the cutthroat nature of disputes among Ukrainian oligarchs would Poroshenko (an oligarch in his own right) have risked trying to shortchange the payment? Why has not even one such Ukrainian donor been identified?
  • Without going into all the details, the Phanar and the Greek Archdiocese have a long relationship with US administrations of both parties going back at least to the Truman administration, encompassing some decidedly unattractive episodes. In such a history, a mere bribe for a geopolitical shot against Moscow would hardly be a first instance or the worst.

As one of this analyst’s Greek-American connections puts it: “It’s easy to comprehend the Patriarchate bowing to the pressure of State Dept. blackmail… not overly savory, but understandable. However, it’s another thing altogether if Kiev truly “purchased” their autocephalous status from an all too willing Patriarchate … which would relegate the Patriarch to ‘salesman’ status and leave the faithful wondering what else might be offered to the highest bidder the next time it became convenient to hold a Patriarchal ‘fire sale’ at the Phanar?!”

To add insult to injury, you’d think Constantinople at least could pay back some of the $7-8 million wasted on the Crete 2016 debacle to restart the St. Nicholas project in New York. Evidently the Phanar has better things to spend it on, like the demonstrative environmentalism of “the Green Patriarch” and, together with Pope Francis, welcoming Muslim migrants to Europe through Greece. Of course maybe there’s no need to worry, as the Ukraine “sale” was consistent with Constantinople’s papal ambitions, an uncanonical claim to “universal” status, and misuse of incarnational language and adoption of a breathtakingly arrogant tone that would cause even the most ultramontane proponent of the Rome’s supremacy to blush.

Finally, it seems that, for the time being at least, Constantinople doesn’t intend to create an independent Ukrainian church but rather an autonomous church under its own authority. It’s unclear whether or not Poroshenko or the State Department, in such event, would believe they had gotten their money’s worth. Perhaps they would. After all, the issue here is less what is appropriate for Ukraine than what strikes at Russia and injures the worldwide Christian witness of the Orthodox Church. To that end, it doesn’t matter whether the new illegal body is Constantinopolitan or Kievan, just so long as it isn’t a “Moskal church” linked to Russia.

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EU Army: Fact or Fiction? (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 152.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and International Affairs and Security Analyst via Moscow, Mark Sleboda discuss the possibility, and feasibility, of putting together an EU army, as French President Macron is now boasting about.

Will an EU Army replace, rival, or fold into NATO? How will the US respond to Europe’s military initiative, and how will Russia deal an EU army?

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Via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


“Insulting” – that’s how US President Donald Trump sharply reacted to the idea of a “real European army” proposed by French President Emmanuel Macron.

And it was how Macron rationalized the need for an independent military force for Europe that perhaps most irked the American leader.

Speaking on a tour of World War I battlefields in northern France last week, Macron said that Europe needed to defend itself from “China, Russia and even the United States of America”.

It was a pretty extraordinary choice of words by the French leader. To frame the US among an array of perceived foreign enemy powers was a devastating blow to the concept of a much-vaunted transatlantic alliance.

Since the Second World War, ending 1945, the concept of an American-European alliance has been the bedrock of a supposed inviolable, mutual defense pact. That nearly seven-decade alliance is now being questioned more than ever.

Macron’s call for a European army was further backed up by German Chancellor Angela Merkel who also pointedly said this week that Europe can no longer rely on the US for its defense.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin has welcomed the proposal for Europe to form its own military organization, independent from Washington. No doubt, Moscow views such a development as augmenting a move towards a multipolar international order, which Russia and China, among others, have been advocating in opposition to American ambitions of unipolar dominance.

When Trump arrived in Paris last weekend along with dozens of other world leaders, including Putin, to commemorate the centennial anniversary marking the end of World War I, there was a notable frostiness between Macron and the American president. Only a few months ago, Macron and Trump had appeared the best of friends in what some observers referred to as a “bromance”.

During the Paris events, Macron sought to placate Trump by saying that the European army proposal would have a “complementary” role to the US-led NATO military alliance. However, their relationship further soured when Macron later delivered a speech in which he made a veiled rebuke of Trump’s “nationalist” politics.

Days later, on returning to Washington, Trump then fired off a fusillade of angry tweets attacking Macron in very personal terms over a range of issues, including “unfair” economic trade and France’s alleged ungrateful attitude towards the US liberation of Paris from Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

The rift between the US and Europe has been brewing even before Trump’s presidency. For years, Washington has been carping that the Europeans need to spend more on military defense, claiming that the US has been shouldering the burden for too long. Trump has taken the griping to a new, higher level. Recall that he has threatened to pull out of NATO because the Europeans were “free loading” on American “protection”.

The irony is that now the French and German leaders are talking about setting up their own military defenses, Trump has blown a fuse.

Evidently, the American contention is not about “burden sharing” of defense. If Washington was genuinely aggrieved about supposedly defending Europe at too much of its own expense, then Trump, one would think, would be only too glad to hear that the Europeans were at last making their own military arrangements, and taking the burden off Washington.

This gets to the heart of the matter about the real purpose of NATO and presence of tens of thousands of US troops stationed in bases across Europe since 1945. American military presence in Europe is not about “protecting” its supposed allies. It is, and always has been, about projecting American power over Europe. In reality, American troops and bases in Europe are more functioning as an occupying force, keeping the Europeans in line with Washington’s strategic objectives of hegemony over the continent.

Macron and Merkel’s vision of a European army is probably fanciful anyway, without any real prospect of materializing. How such a new defense arrangement would work independently from the 29-member NATO alliance led by the US seems unwieldy and impractical.

But the latest tensions between Washington and European leaders over military organization demonstrate the real nature of America’s relationship to Europe. It is about domination by Washington over Europe and has little to do with partnership and protection.

When Trump and previous US presidents have urged greater military spending by Europe the ulterior agenda is for Europeans to pay more to underpin American military presence, not for Europeans to find their own independent defense arrangement.

Tensions in the transatlantic axis seem to be coming to a head, heightened by Trump’s nationalistic “America First” policy. Rivalries are sharpening over trade, US sanctions on Iran, Trump’s threats against European energy plans with Russia, the Paris Climate Accord, and squabbling over NATO expenditures.

There is nothing progressive about Macron or Merkel’s call for a European army. It is more to do with France and Germany wanting to assert themselves as great powers and to shake off American tutelage out of frustration with Trump’s domineering petulance.

Only last week, Macron caused controversy when he praised French military general Philippe Pétain who collaborated with Nazi Germany as leader of Vichy France (1940-44). Macron wants a European army to satisfy his own nationalistic ambitions of revamping French global power. This week, he spent the night onboard a refurbished French aircraft carrier, the Charles de Gaulle, from which he gave a media interview saying that being “an ally of America meant not being a vassal”. Touché!

A progressive challenge from Europe to American power would not involve setting up a new army. Instead it would involve Europeans pushing for the disbandment of NATO as an obsolete organization and for the withdrawal of US-led forces which are dangerously amassing on Russia’s border.

Nonetheless, the one positive thing to emerge from the transatlantic spat over military defenses is that it illustrates more than ever how European protection is not the real purpose of Washington’s relationship to the continent. The purpose is one of using Europe as a platform for projecting America’s power, in particular against Russia.

The recent announcement by the Trump administration that it is willing to rip up yet another nuclear arms control treaty – the INF following the ABM in 2002 – clearly shows that Washington, ultimately, has recklessly scant concern for Europe’s security with regard to a possible future war with Russia.

For Washington, despite all the chivalrous rhetoric, Europe is not a partner nor even an ally. It is a vassal. Admittedly, thousands of American troops died while bravely fighting wars in Europe. But they are distinct from the US ruling class. At bottom, Europe is merely a battlefield for American military power, just as it was in two previous world wars. One hundred years after the end of World War I, the same callous calculus for the imperial planners in Washington is at play.

European ideas for independent defense is why Washington has reacted so furiously. It’s not willing to give up its European front.

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Zuckerberg Clings To Power While Sandberg Claims Ignorance After Damaging NYT Report

The New York Times reported that Facebook hired GOP PR firm, Defenders, to smear liberal detractors as Soros operatives. 

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Facebook executives Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg are battling backlash over an explosive investigation by the New York Times into Facebook’s mercenary damage control tactics in the wake of several major scandals.

Despite fresh calls from investors for Zuckerberg to step down in his dual role as CEO and chairman and appoint an independent director to oversee the board, the 34-year-old tech titan brushed off the suggestion during a Thursday call with journalists.

“A company with Facebook’s massive reach and influence requires robust oversight and that can only be achieved through an independent chair who is empowered to provide critical checks on company leadership,” said New York City comptroller, Scott Stringer.

Zuckerberg disagrees. “I don’t think that that specific proposal is the right way to go,” said the Facebook CEO when asked if he would consider stepping down, adding that other initiatives had been launched to “get more independence into our systems.”

The measures include creating an independent body to advise the company on decisions over whether controversial content should remain on the site.

Ultimately, he said Facebook is never going to eradicate mistakes. “We’re never going to get to the point where there are no errors,” he told reporters. “I’m trying to set up the company so that way we have our board, and we report on our financial results and do a call every quarter, but that also we have this independent oversight that is just focused on the community.” –Business Insider

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, meanwhile, is claiming ignorance – telling CBS This Morning co-host Norah O’Donnell “we absolutely did not pay anyone to create fake news – that they have assured me was not happening.”

In their Wednesday exposé – the culmination of interviews with over 50 current and former company executives, lawmakers, government officials, lobbyists and congressional staff members,the New York Times reported that Facebook had hired GOP PR firm, Defenders, which smeared liberal detractors as Soros operatives – and worked with a sister company to create negative propaganda about competitors Google and Apple.

Mr. Kaplan prevailed on Ms. Sandberg to promote Kevin Martin, a former Federal Communications Commission chairman and fellow Bush administration veteran, to lead the company’s American lobbying efforts. Facebook also expanded its work with Definers.

On a conservative news site called the NTK Network, dozens of articles blasted Google and Apple for unsavory business practices. One story called Mr. Cook hypocritical for chiding Facebook over privacy, noting that Apple also collects reams of data from users. Another played down the impact of the Russians’ use of Facebook.

The rash of news coverage was no accident: NTK is an affiliate of Definers, sharing offices and staff with the public relations firm in Arlington, Va. Many NTK Network stories are written by staff members at Definers or America Rising, the company’s political opposition-research arm, to attack their clients’ enemies. –NYT

Meanwhile, Sandberg stressed that Facebook was undertaking new security measures, telling O’Donnell: “Our strategy was to shore up the security on Facebook and make major investments there,” and that the company had made significant investments in combatting fake news and foreign influence.

“It was not what I was doing nor was it the company’s strategy to deflect, to deny or to hire PR firms to do things. That’s not the strategy. And I was part of none of that. We’ve taken great steps, we’ve made huge investments. We’ve invested a ton in AI and technology and if you were following us before the election you saw those efforts pay off. We were able to take down lots of stuff over and over, over and over because we were now focused on this,” said Sandberg.

When asked if rank-and-file employees are confident in her, Sandberg replied: “Yes, I believe so.

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